The Allahabad High Court has refused to quash a first information report against Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair for calling three Hindutva supremacists “hatemongers” in a tweet, Live Law reported on Monday.
All three seers – Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati, Bajrang Muni and Anand Swaroop – have been booked in hate speech cases in the past few months for making inflammatory statements about Muslims.
On May 27, Zubair wrote on Twitter that prime time debates on Indian news channels have become “a platform to encourage hate mongers to speak ill about other religions”.
He shared a clip of a debate on the Times Now channel, called “The Gyanvapi Files”, moderated by its anchor Navika Kumar.
The show was about the standoff at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, where a court-appointed surveyor reported that an oval object had been found in the tank of the Muslim place of worship during a video survey. Hindu petitioners claimed it is a Shivling, a symbolic representation of Shiva. Muslims, however, say that the object is actually a fountain.
In his tweet on May 27, Zubair said that Kumar had been doing shows claiming that the structure inside the mosque is a shivling.
“Why do we need hate mongers like Yati Narasinghanand Saraswati or Mahant Bajrang Muni or Anand Swaroop to arrange a Dharam Sansad [religious conclave] to speak against a community and a religion when we already have anchors who can do much better job from news studios,” Zubair wrote.
On June 1, the Uttar Pradesh Police booked Zubair under Indian Penal Code Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) as well as Section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act.
The action was taken based on a complaint by Bhagwan Sharan, who identifies himself as the district head of Hindutva organisation Rashtriya Hindu Sher Sena.
Sharan said that his religious sentiments had been hurt by Zubair’s tweet. In his complaint, Sharan alleged that Zubair was inciting Muslims to murder Hindutva leaders.
In his petition before the Allahabad High Court, Zubair argued that he had not “insulted or attempted to insult a religious belief of a class” with his tweet, Live Law reported. He demanded that the FIR should be quashed, saying the complaint against him had been filed just to harass him with an ulterior motive.
However, the court held that the investigation is still at a premature stage and more evidence must be gathered to arrive at a conclusion one way or the other.
“If the allegations are bereft of truth and made maliciously, the investigation will say so,” the High Court added, Live Law reported.
The court dismissed the journalist’s petition, noting that prima facie there are sufficient grounds to further investigate the case.